It is with deep regret and sadness that we announce the passing of Gary Willis at the age of 51 in April 2021.
Gary was Sales Director of First Cut at the time of his passing after having fought a brave and courageous 18-month battle with cancer. Always a positive man he remained so up until the end.
Gary attended Randfontein High School in the west of Gauteng between 1983 and 1987 before joining his late father’s tungsten carbide tool tip business. Gary would remain in the metalworking engineering industry for the rest of his working career, culminating in being appointed as Sales Director in First Cut’s Consumables Division.
In 1993 Gary joined Alexander and Poole, an importing and distribution company of engineering products. The company would later merge with First Cut and Gary made connection with his former colleagues in 2005 after spending five years in the sales arena at Grinding Techniques, a South African manufacturer of grinding consumables.
Gary spent most of his career at First Cut in management positions before being appointed as the Sales Director of the consumable division, which includes product such as band saw blades, circular saw blades, hacksaw blades and other cutting consumables.
In 2019, First Cut concluded an agreement with German cutting technologies company Messer Cutting Systems, to acquire its existing South African agency and manufacture a range of Messer welding electrodes at its factory in Benrose, Johannesburg. Gary was responsible for implementing manufacturing facility and sales strategy for the range of electrodes, which includes electrodes for welding mild steel, carbon-manganese steels, stainless steels and so-called ‘problem’ steels where welding has to take place under difficult circumstances or dissimilar types of metal need to be joined together.
Another important international manufacturer that Gary looked after in his division was L.S. Starrett Co, a USA manufacturer of tools and instruments (micrometres, gauges and other metrology and measurement equipment) used by machinists and tool and die makers.
Gary’s fellow Directors at First Cut had high praise for him: “He always considered the well-being of his staff, his customers and his suppliers, in making his suggestions and decisions. He took his role and contribution to the business – and the industry as a whole – extremely seriously, was highly diligent and always thought deeply about his responsibilities.”
“He was always well prepared for an Exco meeting, a meeting with a customer or his weekly Friday afternoon sales meeting. In his approach to business, Gary had a ‘hands-on’, practical approach which was very logical and measured, with a talent for dealing with the detail. These skills really came to the fore when implementing sales strategy. Gary’s characteristically careful and consistent approach contributed substantially to the successful management of the First Cut Consumables division – very much the ‘heart’ of the business.”
“He was always open – ear, heart and mind – to the people around him, and he listened carefully, considering everyone’s viewpoints with calm and sensitivity. He was a very loyal manager, fighting robustly for the benefit of his team. Because of this character trait, Gary was uniformly trusted and respected by all.”
“It has been an honour and privilege working with and getting to know Gary over the past 25 years. We complemented one another’s strengths and weaknesses, forming a close and cohesive partnership with much mutual synergy and benefit. He was both a colleague of the highest order and a genuine friend. We worked hard together, we laughed, we celebrated, we dug deep when necessary – but most of all we enjoyed and valued his company.”
“We will miss you deeply Gary. Rest in peace.”
Gary leaves his wife Katy, daughter Lauren, his mother and his brother David. He was a dedicated family man, and was loving and highly protective over his family, always focused on their safety and well-being. He put the loves of his life – Katy and Lauren – first. Our thoughts and prayers go to his family during this very difficult time.